Questions over Private Care for Cancer Patients; TAXPAYER FUNDS LONDON RADIOSURGERY TREATMENT

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

Questions over Private Care for Cancer Patients; TAXPAYER FUNDS LONDON RADIOSURGERY TREATMENT


Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON

THE WELSH Government has been strongly criticised after it emerged that cancer patients have been sent for private radiosurgery treatment in Harley Street at taxpayers' expense because it is not available in Wales.

Questions have also been asked about the decision to use a private clinic when radiosurgery machines of exactly the same kind are available at several NHS hospitals in England. Sending patients to Harley Street, in London's West End, appears to fly in the face of the Welsh Government's declared policy not to use private health care provision.

A campaign is under way to have an alternative to conventional radiotherapy called cyberknife available to patients in Wales. Cyberknife, which uses a laser to focus on cancer cells, is able to concentrate treatment into a handful of sessions instead of the 25 routinely required with radiotherapy. Information disclosed to the Western Mail shows that in 2010 the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) spent pounds 29,000 on sending one cancer patient for radiosurgery treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and another to the Cyberknife Centre in Harley Street. In 2011, two patients were sent to Harley Street and one each to the Royal Marsden, North Bristol NHS Trust, and East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust at a total cost of pounds 75,500.

While no breakdown has been provided, it is understood that the cost of radiosurgery in Harley Street is approximately double that in NHS hospitals. Earlier this year we revealed how some local health boards in Wales admitted they didn't know how many cancer patients they were treating with radiotherapy, and at what cost. Subsequently two health bodies contradicted each other over who paid for what.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "The deeper the investigation goes into the commissioning of radiosurgery treatment, the more shocking the revelations. First of all we find out that LHBs didn't know how much they were spending on this treatment.

Then we understand that different departments in our NHS did not know what other departments were doing. Now, we see the Labour Government making a mockery of their own policy of banning the use of private healthcare in the NHS. This whole affair shows how parts of our NHS are not delivering for its patients. "I find it very difficult to understand the Labour Government's position on using private healthcare. On the one hand, they do all they can to rid Wales of private healthcare facilities because of their dogmatic approach to the private sector but on the other hand they commission Harley Street, the epitome of private health treatment, for this radiosurgery treatment. …

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